Oakland youth Stepped UP at National Festival

Thank you to all who supported our campaign to attend the 2017 American Youth Circus Festival in Trenton, New Jersey. On August 15, we set out with seven youth, two coaches, and two mothers for what turned out to be an inspiring, challenging, and extremely fun adventure.

Our group did an outstanding job representing Oakland and themselves throughout the trip! On the first day, students assisted Ceara Walton with teaching a Hambone body percussion workshop for both coaches and youth. After a presentation and introducing some basic rhythms, our youth coached small groups of participants to put together their own short body percussion routine. For the rest of the weekend, we would come across random groups stomping their feet and clapping their hands – practicing and showing off.

Derique McGee joined us in New Jersey the next day and lead another workshop on Hambone Body Percussion that dove deeper into the history of Hambone as it emerged as an art form of resilience among enslaved Africans in the United States.

The festival day activities were filled with making new friends and learning with others from around the country. Workshops included hat making, storytelling through acrobatics, German Wheel, and juggling.

Acrobatic creations!

We were even able to take some time aside to learn a little of trapeze!

Performances took place on Thursday and Friday nights and featured amazing acts. We were so excited to see our former coach, Audrey Spinazola, with her new students from Seattle in this great partner acrobatic act. We also got to see the puppets from Wise Fool New Mexico. We have a special connect to Wise Fool because our stilt curriculum came to us from its founder.

Our group performed a body percussion transition for Thursday’s show. On Friday, we had the honor of closing the show with Higher Ground, a Tribute to African Stilt Dancing. Our students truly rose above and performed their hearts out for a very enthusiastic audience.


By Sunday, we made a lot of new friends, near and far. For the final lunch and dinner our youth were scattered throughout, sitting and eating among new friends from other programs. We experienced how “One Drum! One Sound! One Circus!” can be felt on a national level!

We can’t express our appreciation enough to those who helped fund this trip. The “take-aways” from this experience are huge and life-long for our youth and we could not have given them this opportunity with that support. We look forward to sharing some of the follow up from this experience later this year.
Please enjoy the video and slide show below that demonstrates the positive energy this trip generated for all of us.

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